FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM JANUARY 9, 2020 • QUEENS BUSINESS • THE QUEENS COURIER 35
Elder Law Minute TM
When is a limited guardianship appropriate?
BY RONALD A. FATOULLAH, ESQ.
AND EVA SCHWECHTER, ESQ.
Guardianship is a process in which
the court appoints a substitute decision
maker for someone deemed incapable
of making decisions for himself.
In some cases, it is clear that a guardian
is needed – for example, if the individual
is suff ering from a severe form
of dementia, is in a vegetative state or
has signifi cant developmental disabilities.
In these situations, a court is not
going to have a diffi cult time determining
that the person is “incapacitated,”
and in most cases the court will appoint
a guardian with broad authority to act
on behalf of the incapacitated person
for both personal and property management
However, in many cases the alleged
incapacitated person is not completely
incapable of participating in the decision
making process. For instance, a
young adult with developmental disabilities
may be able to hold a job and
live on his own, but he may be too
trusting when it comes to managing
his fi nancial aff airs, which could lead
to people taking advantage of him.
Alternately, an aging parent may need
a guardian to make certain health care
related decisions for her, although she
can manage on her own in terms of
housing and socialization needs.
In these cases, a full guardianship
may not be appropriate. Instead, many
judges will appoint a guardian with
limited powers that are specifi cally tailored
to the alleged incapacitated person’s
needs. For example, a court can
appoint a “guardian of the property” to
handle the fi nancial aff airs of someone
who is not capable of handling her own
fi nances, without having any power
to manage health care decision making.
Moreover, even a court-appointed
guardian of the property is not necessarily
granted unlimited fi nancial control.
A judge can limit the guardianship
for a specifi c purpose, for example
to fund a trust or sell a home, without
granting the authority to pay bills for
the individual. Th e options are almost
infi nite, limited only by the needs of the
person under guardianship.
In order to determine the exact
nature of the guardian’s duties and how
one must act as guardian, it is important
to consult the court order. Once
the court appoints the guardian, an
order will be signed detailing the powers
and duties granted to the guardian.
Depending on the terms of the guardianship,
a guardian may need to seek
a further court order for various decisions
not specifi cally allowed in the
original order. A guardian has a fi duciary
duty to act in the best interest
of the ward at all times. Additionally,
a guardian must always keep detailed
records of everything having to do
with assets of the incapacitated person,
including all money spent and all
income received. In a limited guardianship,
it is also important to communicate
with the ward regarding the decision
making process, and to consult
with him to the extent possible.
Full guardianships are important
tools to have available when someone
is completely incapacitated. But when
the lines are not so clear-cut, a limited
or special guardianship helps to protect
an individual and preserve many of
his rights to make decisions on his own,
while enabling a loved one to step in
where necessary to ensure the individual’s
safety. It is important to consult an
elder law attorney to determine whether
a full or limited guardianship may be
appropriate for your loved one.
Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is
the founder of Ronald Fatoullah &
Associates, a law fi rm that concentrates
in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid
planning, guardianships, estate administration,
trusts, wills, and real estate.
Eva Schwechter is an elder law attorney
with the fi rm. Th e law fi rm can
be reached at 718-261-1700, 516-466-
4422, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW
or 1-877-ESTATES. Mr. Fatoullah is
also a partner advisor with Advice
Period, a wealth management fi rm that
provides a continuum of fi nancial and
investment advice for individuals and
businesses, and he can be reached at
Do you have a clear vision for 2020?
Do you have a clear vision
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Now is the perfect time to
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To ensure that you accomplish
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• Specifi c (Is my goal clear and
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One of the fi rst steps to successfully
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Wishing you a bright and successful
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Mindy Stern, SPHR, SHRM-SCP,
ACC is a trusted HR advisor, leadership
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